, Volume 29, Issue 1-3, pp 81-92

Qa-1, a nonclassical class I histocompatibility molecule with roles in innate and adaptive immunity

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Qa-1, a nonclassical class I histocompatibility molecule expressed in mice, predominantly assembles with a single nonameric peptide, Qdm, derived from the signal sequence of certain class Ia molecules. The Qa-1/Qdm complex is the primary ligand for CD94/NKG2A inhibitory receptors expressed on a major fraction of natural killer (NK) cells. cells become susceptible to killing by NK cells under conditions where surface expression of the Qa-1/Qdm inhibitory ligand is reduced. The CD94/NKG2 “missingself” recognition system serves as mechanism for removing cells that have abnormalities in the intracellular machinery required for assembly and expression of class I-peptides complexes, as a consequence of viral infection, for example. Despite its highly focused peptide-binding specificity, Qa-1 also has a capacity to act as an antigen-presentation molecule for CD8+ T cells. It appears that a small subpopulation of these T cells undergoes positive selection by interaction with Qa-1 in the thymus, and they maintain their specificity for Qa-1 after maturation. The role of these unusual T cells in adaptive immune responses remains to be defined.